How do you know when the moment has arrived? That moment when you have become a TRUE Artist? It is the moment when nobody knows exactly how you do what you do. Not even you. You've learned to channel something deep within you that is precious and indefinable. Your constant devotion to your technique, your craft, and to all the details is still there. But, you leave it at the door and your hard work WORKS for itself! It's time. Time to stop thinking too hard. Time to not be able to put things into words. Time to not know what your next move is going to be. Time to let go completely. Time to be… the TRUE Artist your soul knows that you are! The moment can be now.
Atten…TION! Standing at attention with "perfect" posture can conjure images of rigid, tight muscles constricted in a frozen state - not the ideal conditions for singing. Great singing requires "tension" to be sure, but tension that's supple and ready to move. Imagine your singing posture NOT as a "set" position, but instead as a combination of energies moving in opposing directions. For instance, let your spine have an upward momentum out of the crown of your head AND a downward motion into the floor. Or, keep your ribcage and abdomen expansive AND free to move inward. Keeping your posture at ease AND intentionally in motion will help keep your singing free and agile. Don't let your posture command a tension. Let it command Attention!
Our EMBOUCHURE (or mouth shape) can greatly affect the resonance of our voices! Try experimenting with different mouth shapes to achieve various resonances and stylistic characteristics! First try a NEUTRAL mouth shape. It's important to be able to sing our entire range without any drastic changes to our Embouchure. If you're looking for increased strength and brightness, attempt to SMILE while singing! If you're attempting a style with a darker resonance quality or need increased vocal flexibility, PUCKERING your lips will help you achieve this effect. Lastly, SNARLING the upper lip is an Embouchure that promotes a lighter sound by encouraging nasal resonance. While we want to first master all vocal coordinations with minimal Embouchure changes, we can later choose to color the sound with a wide variety of mouth postures as we see fit!
Studies have shown that it takes professional sight-singers approximately TWELVE times singing through a new song before their breathing functions optimally. This means that the mind focuses first on learning the notes and only later can vocal technique be added. What can we learn from this? First, give yourself TIME to familiarize yourself with the notes, rhythms, and lyrics of a song. Don't be too hard on yourself about technique initially. PLAN your breaths ahead of time. Mark them on your music with a dash. Take many breaths at first. Breathe at any punctuation marks or ends of ideas. In the initial stages of learning, give yourself the best chances by approaching a song step-by-step. Don't get immediately frustrated with learning new music. Breathe. Plan. Practice. Succeed. Repeat.
What makes a style a STYLE? This can be confusing when there are countless styles, sub-styles, and fusions of styles. A great listening exercise is to find a classic song that has been covered over many decades by many artists in many styles. Listen to at least 7 recordings of the song you choose. Compare the way various singers use their voices. Does each singer stick to the original melody? Are changes made to the phrasing, rhythm, or lyrics? What key is the song performed in? Which vocal registers are used? Does each singer use a wide range of dynamics? What about legato, staccato, or other musical devices? These questions can get you started on a path to really understanding the nuances of vocal style. Once you become aware of these nuances, you'll find it surprisingly easy to add new tricks that help make your style YOUR style!
Your Larynx is an amazing energy converting machine! Air pressure beneath the Larynx and vocal folds creates aerodynamic POWER. The Larynx then amazingly converts this aerodynamic power into acoustic power by causing vocal fold VIBRATION. Even more amazing is the way acoustic power travels through the space above it. The RESONANCE of the head can either enhance or diminish the quality of the vocal fold vibration. So, this power conversion doesn't just happen one way, but many ways! As singers, we study vocal technique, breath, and resonance to make this energy conversion as efficient as possible. This leads to more sound, clearer sounds, freer sounds, and limitless vocal possibilities. All this and more - just because your larynx is literally an amazing well-oiled vocal machine!
Have you learned all the notes of a particular Riff, but still find it hard to execute? This is common due to the fact that Riffs require great flexibility. So, try following a few simple steps that promote vocal flexibility and agility. First, slowly sing each note of a Riff on any syllable. This enables you to separate each note individually and master the Riff's directional changes. Next, sing those same notes in a quick staccato fashion. The shortness and quickness of the staccato will build agility and precision. Then, vocalize the Riff on an OO vowel or a lip trill. This will encourage flexibility and allow you to feel the smooth flow of the Riff. Last, add back the original words or sounds of the Riff. You will likely notice a major improvement! You can always apply this step-by-step approach to any Riff that is getting away from you!
How LOW can you go? Increasing your low range is not only great for range building. It's also an excellent way to unlock the complete color spectrum of your voice! We often try to reach lower notes by pushing down our jaw, tongue, and larynx. Yet, this usually results in a hollow, breathy sound as well as tension in the throat and neck. Instead, think UP and think BRIGHT! Practice singing your lowest notes on "EEN" or "NEEN" in a 3-2-1 or a 1-3-1 pattern. Allow the notes to sound "twangy" and silly - like a robot, an alien, or a nerdy cartoon character. It may feel and sound weird or foreign at first. But, very quickly this strategy will allow you to reach low notes you didn't know you had!
Is your voice TRAPPED? It might because your TRAPezius is getting tight. Your Trapezius is the muscle that connects the back of your neck to your shoulders. As a major neck muscle, the Trapezius can really interfere with the voice. Avoid lifting your shoulders when you inhale during singing. Also, make sure to not jut the neck and chin forward for higher notes. These habits create Trapezius tension. This being said, the Trapezius can also become tight from many non-singing tasks in everyday life. So, try holding Trapezius down with firm pressure or giving it a solid massage while singing. This should not only feel great, but should reveal vocal freedom that has been TRAPPED by your Traps!
Everyone knows that certain songs are unfailing crowd-pleasers. You sing one line and the whole room joins you. It's helpful to have songs like this in your repertoire to pull out on a whim. However, don't limit yourself to crowd favorites! You should be able to perform not only sure-fire hits, but lesser known melodies as well. When you sing a piece that's unfamiliar to the listener, they won't be distracted by wanting to join in and can focus their attention on the singing itself! Your audiences will become even more interested in your performances simply due to the VARIETY of your repertoire alone. You may also introduce them to a new artist or style of music in the process. This is a crowd-pleaser in itself!
The voice is the one instrument that you carry everywhere you go. Your voice is used when you're at work, at a loud restaurant, with friends, at home with family and, of course, when singing! Often singers wonder why their voices sometimes get tired even they're not doing excessive amounts of practicing and performing. Usually the cause is the EXTRA use on top of the singing. Moreover, factors like diet, stress, sleep, and physical fitness also affect the way our voices function. So, if you're wanting to preserve, protect, or prepare your voice for a big performance, take into consideration the BIG vocal picture! Find ways to spare your voice from any unnecessary extra wear and tear. If you do, your best voice will be with you anytime, anywhere!
YODELING is not just for attracting sheep anymore! It's also an important vocal skill that can assist with both style and technique. For style, the "yodel" is heard when a singer BREAKS from a connected register like Chest Voice to a disconnected register like Falsetto. This purposeful breaking is often used in pop, rock, R&B, country, and of course Yodeling! For technique, it is also quite helpful. Allowing the vocal folds to disconnect as pitches ascend trains them to have their greatest flexibility for higher notes. Often singers squeeze and pinch for ascending notes. This can be fixed by alternating between a Yodel and a connected registers like Mix Voice. So, whether you want better style, better technique, or just more fuzzy friends… try a YODEL today!
Remember to REWARD your singing! Singing involves muscle coordinations that only get better with practice and time. Yet, we often refuse to reward ourselves until we sound "perfect" or until we achieve something that we perceive to be a monumental accomplishment. Remember though - every time you practice or take a lesson, you're taking a step forward on your vocal journey. Every time you study a new artist, you're developing your stylistic potential. Every time you show up for an audition (even when you don't get cast), your career is moving forward. Every time you sing to make someone else happy, you've given a precious gift. Don't wait to reward yourself. Celebrate the amazing steps forward that you're making each and every day! If you do, you'll soon remember that singing is its own reward!
Dress for success in your auditions! But, when selecting your perfect audition outfit, be aware that certain clothes can actually interfere with your singing. Avoid tight-fitting pieces that can restrict the expansion of your abdomen or ribcage and hinder your breathing. Also, don't forget about your shoes. Changes in heel height can alter your body's ideal alignment and your technique. To avoid being surprised on audition day, try rehearsing in the shoes and outfit you plan to wear. Finally, make sure that your outfit makes you feel confident in who you are. Wear something that makes you stand out, but also stays true to the person you are and the message you want to send to the world through your art! Look good... sing GREAT!
Happy Easter singers! Today we celebrate Rebirth, Rejuvenation, and New Beginnings! As singers, we are a conscientious group of people who often strive for perfection. We keep record of our flaws and mistakes with brutal detail. So much so that we can sometimes stymie our growth and fail to recognize all the wonderful strides we have taken. Let Easter be the day to wipe the slate clean. Forgive yourself. Make a promise to let go of your shortcomings. After all, the mere thought of your flaws is probably holding you back more than any actual flaw ever can. Remember that no one is perfect. No. Not even one. And, with an Easter Spirit - celebrate the Rising of your music, your voice, and your New Beginning!
The music industry is a JUNGLE! You must find your own noble path through the jungle one step at a time. Luckily, there are some common steps that have helped other artists find their way. Step 1 - Gather some great original songs or covers and record a demo. Step 2 - Make your music available in places like Soundcloud, Spotify, iTunes, YouTube, and Social Media. Step 3 - Submit your music for performances at festivals, competitions, or live shows. Step 4 - Advertise your music by inviting friends, artists, engineers, producers, and agents to hear your music. Step by step you will find your own untrodden path through the music industry jungle! One day others you've inspired may very well want to follow in your footsteps!
"Two is better than one!" This goes for singing as well. Have a friend that loves to sing? Try practicing with them! We usually only think about practicing alone or with a vocal coach, but having another set of friendly ears can be helpful and inspirational. In addition to singing your favorite duets, you can give each other feedback and learn from one another's strengths. Plan to meet at least once a month and keep each other positive and accountable. Record your sessions so you can document your mutual progress from month to month. So go ahead - set a date, create a song list for both of you, and get started with vocal growth x 2!
Where is the line between ACTING and LIVING? There's a well-known story about Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier. In preparation for a difficult scene, Hoffman hadn't slept for a few days. Olivier asked him why he was putting himself through such an ordeal. Hoffman said that he wanted to be convincing in the role. Olivier replied, "Try ACTING dear boy". Many actors feel the need to live every experience that their character is going through. But, Acting is really more about being able to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances. Do your homework of course. Investigate the life of your character. Research who they are, where they've lived, and what they want. Ultimately, though, using your imagination and preparing your character will do the job. And, it will save you from unnecessary pain and sleepless nights!
Have you ever wondered why your voice sounds different to you when you hear it back on a recording? The answer: ACOUSTICS! When you hear someone else speak or sing, you're hearing their voice completely via sound waves traveling through the air. When you sing or speak, you're hearing approximately 20% of your voice through the air. The other 80% is sound that vibrates in your body, bones, and head. This is why our perception of our own voice is quite skewed. These perceptions can wrongly influence our opinion of tone, beauty, and dynamics and thus limit our progress. Take the time to record your lessons, practices, and performances regularly and then listen back so that you can hear 100% of what others hear. And as you do, remember to be kind to yourself about what you're hearing!
How often do you COMPLIMENT other singers? It's easy to get wrapped up in competition and trying to make a name for yourself as an artist. But, true Artists appreciate all the beauty around them - even if it's being made by someone else. As Artists, we should be able to genuinely appreciate the work of others without having to compare it to our own. Even when we're comparing ourselves to other voices as a learning tool, we still need to be able to step back and simply ENJOY other singers! Valuing and encouraging fellow vocalists will keep you focused on singing as an art instead of a contest. With this approach, every singer truly wins!
Did you know that the simple act of looking down at our phones can impact our posture? We tend to lean our heads forward by as much as 60 degrees as we scroll through a smartphone or tablet! This act of tilting forward and downward becomes a burden on the cervical spine, creating excess tension in the back of the neck. Our bodies habituate this position so quickly that straightening up can actually cause discomfort! It then becomes difficult to sustain vertical alignment while singing because the body simply isn't used to the proper position. Ideally, phone and computer screens should be placed at eye level. If this isn't possible, be mindful of how far you're jutting forward. Avoid looking down or leaning forward for extended periods of time or make sure to take breaks. This subtle change will relieve the muscles in your neck and encourage ideal alignment!
Every singer works on improving their RESONANCE. The Pharynx is the voice's primary resonator. It's divided into 3 sections. There's the LaryngoPharynx (Larynx space), OroPharynx (Mouth space), and NasoPharynx (Nasal space). Lowering the LARYNX increases the darker Resonances of the voice. Raising the Larynx makes the sound brighter. Opening the MOUTH makes the sound appear stronger. A narrow or neutral mouth position increases Head Resonance and often the beauty of the tone. NASAL Resonance is added when the soft palate is lowered. This provides flexibility to the voice and assists with vocal placement. All these important Resonance adjustments take place in the 3 sections of the Pharynx. There's so much great singing going on in the back of your mouth!
Is there a difference between breathing for singing and breathing for everyday life? YES! In everyday life, our vocal folds generally stay apart, allowing air to enter and exit the body with ease. During singing, our breath is constantly flowing and our vocal folds are constantly vibrating. Great singing requires a balance of airflow and compression. Airflow from the lungs and muscular compression between the vocal folds interact to help create pitch, volume, vocal registers, and timbre. Lots of airflow and very little compression could result in a whispy or breathy vocal quality. On the other hand, lots of compression and very little airflow will likely result in a "pressed" or harsh tone. There are infinite gradations in between these two examples that can be explored! And, while regular folks might not explore these things in everyday life - YOU will never run out of possibilities as you breathe, experiment, and master your singing voice!